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Eid al Fitr celebrates end of Ramadan fasting, gift of self-control

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  • Zafar Khan
    Eid al Fitr celebrates end of Ramadan fasting, gift of self-control By Mr. Aziz Junejo
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2005
      Eid al Fitr celebrates end of Ramadan fasting, gift of
      By Mr. Aziz Junejo


      The three-day celebration called Eid al Fitr, which
      marks the end of the month of Ramadan, has been to me
      what I imagine Christmas or Hanukkah is to others of
      the Abrahamic faiths.

      Eid al Fitr is one of two equally major holidays for
      Muslims around the world, the other being Eid al Adha,
      the celebration that marks completion of the annual
      Hajj in Mecca. With the sighting of the new moon in
      the western sky just after sunset one night this
      coming week, Ramadan will end and Eid will begin.
      During Eid, Muslims not only celebrate the end of
      fasting but thank God for the help and strength he
      gave them throughout the previous month to practice
      self-control as a form of worship.

      On the first morning of Eid, we wake up early and take
      long baths, preparing ourselves for prayers with extra
      perfume and fragrances. We usually have a light snack
      before going to prayer, as fasting is forbidden on
      this special day.

      A payment of Zakat al Fitr — charity for the poor —
      which is a pillar of Islam, is required of every
      Muslim before Eid prayer. The man of the house must
      pay for the immediate members of his family, and this
      money is usually given a week or two before the end of
      Ramadan so it can be distributed to the needy, thus
      ensuring that they will have a joyful Eid celebration.

      As my father did when I was young, I drive my family
      in one vehicle to the Eid prayer, which is usually
      staged at a venue large enough to serve 15,000-20,000
      Muslims from throughout the Puget Sound area. This
      year, it will be at the former Sand Point Naval

      Those who have to work usually pray at their local
      mosque around 7:30 in the morning, but the majority of
      Muslims will attend the one-hour, areawide service at
      9 a.m. We and many others bring our own prayer rugs
      and wear ethnic clothing, which reflects the
      cosmopolitan mosaic of our Muslim community here in

      For me, the best part comes just after the Eid sermon,
      when each person stands up and hugs the person next to
      him or her, and then hugs another, and then others
      still — people we may not know personally but
      recognize as our brethren in faith, embracing them and
      wishing them a blessing of "God be with you."

      For me this is the real spirit, the essence of Eid —
      rich or poor, black, white or brown, we have all
      fasted together, prayed together, and finally shown
      our love for each other, strictly for the pleasure of

      After the prayers, everyone returns home to celebrate
      the holiday. The house has been decorated the night
      before, and everyone is still wearing their Eid
      attire. It isn't common for children to receive gifts
      on Eid, but rather gifts of money called "Eidii,"
      usually in the form of a brand-new bank note. The
      amount is small, but when collected all day from mom
      and dad, uncles and aunts, friends and neighbors, it
      amounts to plenty.

      This year after prayers, we will prepare all kinds of
      ethnic foods, inviting all my relatives for a feast
      that will last all day. Our children will play and be
      entertained, as relatives sit around our house with a
      blazing fire in the fireplace, eating and exchanging
      wonderful and relaxing conversation all day and into
      the evening.

      We will visit friends at their houses, too. And as we
      share foods from many cultures, we also will share the
      joy of having endured a month of hunger and
      self-control, of having practiced good manners, good
      speech and forgiveness, and of making amends as
      obedience to the one God.

      Aziz Junejo is host of "Focus on Islam," a weekly
      cable-television show, and a frequent speaker on
      Islam. He and four other columnists — Pastor Mark
      Driscoll, the Rev. Patrick J. Howell, Rabbi Mark S.
      Glickman and the Rev. Patricia L. Hunter — take turns
      writing for the Faith & Values page. Readers may send
      feedback to faithpage@...

      Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

      Ramadan: The month of self-purification
      By Bill Schaefer - Journal Photographer


      POCATELLO - On a cool October as the sun begins its
      slow descent below the horizon against the misty gray
      skies of Pocatello, a group of people begin to gather
      inside two back rooms of a small, wood frame house on
      South Fifth Street.

      These small, sparse rooms have been converted into a
      Mosque. They represent the center of worship for
      Southeast Idaho's Islamic community. Muslims from
      Roberts, Rexburg, Idaho Falls and Blackfoot come to
      worship here in Pocatello. They are a melting pot of
      cultures, from Pakistan, Palestine, Iraq, Malaysia,
      all over the world. They are students, teachers,
      doctors, engineers, wives and mothers, coming together
      to celebrate their faith.

      Tonight is a special evening for these individuals and
      families. As they enter, one entrance for men, one
      entrance for women, they bring pots and pans of food
      to celebrate another day's fast that will come to an
      end at sunset.

      This is Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic
      calendar. It is the most revered month in Islam
      because Muslims believe that Allah (God) revealed the
      first verses of the Quran to Muhammad at this time.
      According to Islamic lore, while wandering the desert
      near Mecca, Muhammad heard the voice of the angel
      Gabriel, who told him that he had been chosen to
      receive the word of Allah. In the following days,
      Muhammad found himself speaking the verses that would
      be transcribed as the Quran.

      To commemorate this most sacred of occasions Muslims
      practice sawm, or fasting, for the entire month of
      Ramadan. Muslims will not eat or drink anything,
      including water, while the sun shines. Fasting is one
      of the Five Pillars of Islam. It is estimated that
      there are currently more than one billion Muslims.

      This Saturday evening the Islamic community at the
      Pocatello mosque numbers about 40. Greeting one
      another, saying, “Assaalaama Alaikum,” translated as
      “May the peace of God be upon you,” and responding
      with “Wa Alaikum Saalaam,” “And the peace of God unto

      Fasting serves as a bond among Muslims worldwide. It
      is seen as a way to practice self-control and to
      cleanse and purge the body and mind, creating a
      communal bond that serves to strengthen their faith.

      During Ramadan families get up at pre-dawn to eat
      suhoor, the meal before sunrise. After sun sets, the
      fast is broken with a meal called iftar. Ramadan ends
      with the festival of Eid al-Fitr on Nov. 4.

      Tonight, as the end of the fast nears, you hear a
      hungry voice asking, “What time is it, is it time
      yet?” Then when the sun's final rays have diminished
      and night has fallen, one man stands in a corner of
      the room and summons the community to prayer. Facing
      east, toward Mecca, they pray, reciting verses from
      the Quran, standing, then kneeling, then prostrating.

      After prayers are completed, a bowl of dates is passed
      around, one or two taken by each person, then a
      tablecloth is spread out on the floor and quickly a
      wide selection of foods as varied as the world of
      Islam appears. Pita bread, kebobs, goat meat,
      meatballs, chicken, tabouli, rice, custard and fruits
      were just a small sample of the cuisine

      As soon as the food is set out, all the men sit around
      the perimeter of the table cloth, helping themselves
      and serving others. The air is filled with the spicy
      smell of foods from around the world and the talk of
      the day's events, local and worldwide. The shared
      experience of fasting and the communal meal serve to
      strengthen the bonds within this microcosm of Islamic
      culture. Sunrise tomorrow will bring another day of

      As Ramadan ends Muslims give to charity
      This year has provided plenty of opportunities for
      Saturday, October 29, 2005


      Now that the holy month of Ramadan is nearing its last
      few days, Muslims will be digging deep into their
      pockets in order to give zakat, or charity, to the

      Due to the recent natural disasters -- close to home
      and around the world -- Muslims have many places to
      offer their charity, either to help those who lost
      their homes because of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita or
      Wilma, or to the millions of people left homeless
      because of the earthquakes in Pakistan.

      "In Ramadan, Muslims place greater importance on
      helping others and sharing. This is the month where
      Muslims try and grab last-minute rewards from God by
      giving charity," says Alla Ahmed, an imam from Egypt
      who is visiting the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Concord
      to give lectures about Islam.

      Zakat, along with fasting, is one of the five pillars
      of the Islamic faith, the others being belief in one
      God (the Shahada), daily prayers (the Salah), and
      performing pilgrimage to Mecca (the Hajj).

      According to Tahir Kukiqi, imam of the Albanian
      Islamic Cultural Center, there are three different
      forms of charity.

      Zakat Al Fitr is an obligatory charity that must be
      given during Ramadan.

      Zakat Al Mehr is also an obligatory charity that can
      be given any time during the year.

      "This is 2.5 percent of one's savings that have
      matured over the past 12 months," explained Kukiqi.
      "It can be given during any time of the year but
      Muslims choose to pay it during Ramadan because the
      rewards from God are doubled."

      Muslims also offer Sadaqah, a voluntary charity that,
      depending on one's income, can be as simple as a meal
      or given as gifts to other people or charities.

      "Zakat is a personal religious obligation. Muslims
      believe that every poor person has a right in our
      wealth therefore we must give zakat," said Tarek
      Moustafa, a New Springville resident who visits Masjid
      Al-Noor for his daily prayers. "If we do not, we are
      denying the poor their wealth."

      During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast during the
      daylight hours and refrain from any form of food,
      liquids, tobacco, gum, and sexual relations.

      Meher Jan of Sunnyside has made an extra effort to
      give zakah during Ramadan ever since she started
      earning her own money.

      "The spiritual essence of Ramadan is not just about
      fasting and praying, it is also about giving charity
      by giving back to the community," said Ms. Jan, adding
      that she offers her zakat to the Muslim Majlis of
      Staten Island, the organization that runs the Concord
      mosque. The money is then forwarded to various charity

      For Moustafa, Ramadan is a beautiful holiday and
      giving zakat is a compulsory rule from God.

      "It's like when you get a new computer, to set the
      system correctly you have to follow the guidelines
      provided," he said. "It's the same in Islam. If you
      follow God's rules you will get the final rewards."

      Hafsa Amin is a news reporter for the Advance. She may
      be reached at amin@....

      More on Eid at:

      More on Ramadan at:

      More on Zakat at:
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